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Speaker Designate John Boehner: A Traitor to His Class

Our future Speaker of the House John Boehner isn't afraid to cry in public.

He readily admits to being an emotional man.

But what does he cry about?

During his victory speech on Election Night, Boehner teared up as he spoke about being a working class stiff who has been chasing the American Dream all his life. Now that he's gotten hold of the brass ring, however, he has allied himself with a bunch of revolutionaries who seek to destroy that Dream by getting rid of the very "safety nets" and services that helped him succeed.

"I'm a regular guy with a big job" said Boehner off-handedly to Lesley Stahl in a "60 Minutes" interview. She found the man likable because he was so "authentic." She predicts the public will like him, too, probably because he represents the epitome of the twentieth century log cabin story.

"I put myself through school, working every rotten job there was," he continued.

The small-town Ohioan grew up as the second oldest in a working class family with 12 kids. He went to Mass every morning at an all-boys Catholic school and lived in a small house with one bathroom and both parents-who happened to be John Kennedy Democrats.

Boehner worked in their father's bar in Reading outside Cincinnati where he mopped floors, helped with breakfast, cleaned up the dishes and washed the windows.

He worked nights to pay for tuition at Xavier University in Cincinnati, a private Catholic institution, and became the first person in his family to attend college, which took him seven years to complete. He met Deborah, his future wife of 37 years, when he was a janitor on the night shift.

After college he got a sales job in the packaging and plastics industry and worked his way up to become president of the firm. He resigned in 1990 when he was elected to Congress.

These are all admirable qualities by working class standards but unlike most, the self-made man became a millionaire. He also said this was the time he converted to Reagan Republicanism because he was so shocked that taxes ate up so much of his income.

What's missing in this picture is his recognition that tax monies have always been critical to business success. How? They provide the legal framework to enforce business contracts, roads and airports to transport goods and people, regulated utility rates that provide reasonably-priced utilities to industrial concerns and public schools and universities that provide a trained workforce. And yet, John Boehner thinks his success is due entirely to his own efforts and that he owes his fellow citizens nothing.

Now that he's in power, he wants to attack the public services and programs that make it possible for working class people to succeed just as he did. And in doing so, he is undercutting the most important resource that any business needs: well-educated, skilled and healthy people. He wants to do it by underfunding or defunding the monies used to subsidize state college tuition, public health, affordable housing, public education, public transportation and roads.

It shouldn't escape our attention--or our pride--that these things were made possible by those liberal New Deal Democrats, courtesy of the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration and his successors.  Neither should we ignore the fact that the wealthy class also chastised FDR and called him a "traitor to his class" for doing this.

Over the past 100 years as the richest Americans have profited most from the United States' rise to world prominence and power, they have consistently complained about paying taxes.

Unfortunately, working class people have been suckered into these concerns to their own detriment. They see the high cost of living, the global economy and job downsizing affecting them but they believe what Republicans tell them:  high taxes are the culprit.


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I don't doubt that Boehner's tears are sincere but he's completely misguided in his analysis.

For example, he says he can't bring himself to visit a school anymore because it's "too emotional" for him. He's not sure the kids will "have a shot at the American Dream." 

However, over the past 30 years the GOP has been doing everything it can to get rid of public schools, including the imposition of high stakes testing that ties the schools' funding and teachers' jobs to students' performance.

Boehner's biggest cry is government spending.

"Your government is out of control," he yelled in his campaign for re-election. "Do you have to accept it? Do you have to take it? Hell, no, you don't."

Lesley Stahl characterized Boehner's campaign as a "strategy of defiance" against Obama and the Democrats. What this really turned out to be was obstruction against working class Americans who are unemployed, underemployed and uninsured for health care.

Boehner, who co-authored the Contract with America in 1994, has now allied himself with the Tea Party, that ruse of a group that appeals to working class Americans' fears and insecurities in this disastrous economic climate.

He also helped promote the extension of the Bush tax cuts.

Truth be told:  Boehner, who dons the Republican mantle, is a traitor to his class, the working class, and he should be ashamed of himself.

He allies with the Republican Party that has consistently shown itself to be the party of the rich by reducing taxes on the wealthiest Americans. Recently, they forced passage of an extension of the Bush tax cuts that helps millionaires save more while it make the lower-income wage earners pay more!

The Republicans have also been chipping away at government services in the name of tightening the belt of Big Government. However, after eight years of Bush and now two years of Obama, the deficit has reached $900 billion anyway.

"Washington has spending problem," said Boehner. 

This is the typical businessman's complaint and quite frankly it's a little old.  Spending is what you do with tax money in order to provide essential services like education, social security and health care especially to those who can't afford them.  This makes for a more equal society, one of the tenets of our democracy.

But let's face it. Our system is made for the rich by the rich. They take care of themselves and don't care about anyone else, least of all the working class. They hire expensive lawyers who get them around tax codes and they support and co-opt millionaire congressmen like Boehner to push for legislation that benefits their pocketbooks.  

The working class-and those of us who came from it-must start our own revolution and resist these Republicans, Tea Partiers, and the sell-out Democrats who protect the rich.

If we don't, it will take more than crying to fix what ails America.

Olga Bonfiglio

Olga Bonfiglio is a professor at Kalamazoo College in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and author of Heroes of a Different Stripe: How One Town Responded to the War in Iraq. She has written for several national magazines on the subjects of social justice and religion. Her website is Contact her at

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